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Armando Testa - the essence of advertising

by Elena Guarneri last modified 2008-06-20 15:14

The father of Italian advertising in a major retrospective. Castello di Rivoli in Turin hosts a retrospective of the work of Armando Testa, the father of Italian advertising.

When asked to describe the work of the Turin-born advertising guru Armando Testa in three words "less is more" immediately come to mind.

effected much of 20th century art and Testa was a minimalist by nature. He based his advertising art - and indeed art it is - on the principles of impact and simplicity. Testa was influenced by abstract art and is perhaps the first modern Italian adman. In his ads the decontextualised product reigns supreme. Consider, for example, Pirelli's baby elephant which had a tyre instead of a trunk.

Testa made ample use of metaphor in his work - just think of his stylised shapes and red and black figures - leaving behind his own unease as he opened the doors to new parallel worlds where anything can happen. And wherever traditional methods of representation were impossible he made rhetoric and semantics his own, creating sets of Pandora's boxes, each one open to numerous levels of interpretation. Testa's messages have multiple meanings such as the logo for the popular aperitif Punt e Mes: the logo is a visual translation of the expression "un punto e mezzo", while on another level reflecting the taste of the drink itself - bitter with a touch of sweetness.

Television first made its way into Italian homes in the 1960s. Testa turned his attention to the new medium and embraced it in full, building new uncharted worlds around his geometric creations. Among his most famous characters are the Caballero Misterioso, Carmencita, Paulista and all the inhabitants of planet Papalla who enthralled the public night after night in the television phenomenon "Carosello". (Carosello was an innovative mix of comic sketches and advertising in which cartoon characters were associated with different products.)

Armando Testa died in 1992, leaving behind his works (now showcased up until May 13th in a major exhibition in Turin's Castello di Rivoli) and an advertising agency which still handles campaigns for clients the like of supermarket chain Esselunga and the electoral candidate Francesco Rutelli with his smiling promises of a better Italy. But that, dear friends, is another story.

The Spotlight is still on...
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Although it stopped broadcasting 25 years ago Carosello still holds a place in the heart of millions of Italians
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